Houston, TX – Today, hundreds of health experts, doctors, researchers and activists held demonstrations and store manager meetings at over 65 Dollar Tree store locations in 26 states across America during the busy holiday shopping season. Coordinated by the Campaign for Healthier Solutions, these dollar store shoppers worked to educate other customers and raise awareness about toxic chemicals found in numerous products sold at one of the nation’s largest dollar store chains. Despite the scale of this national demonstration, protest organizers noted that Dollar Tree corporate officials have so far failed to respond to the campaign in any formal way.
Recent independent laboratory testing (summary report) found that some products purchased from Dollar Tree, one of the nation’s largest discount retailers, contained toxic chemicals at levels which may harm customers – and especially children. Notable chemicals of concern detected in Dollar Tree products included: phthalates, linked to birth defects, reduced fertility, cancer, learning disabilities, diabetes, and other health issues; polyvinyl chloride plastic (PVC or vinyl), which has been linked to asthma and other lung diseases; and heavy metals such as lead, which harms brain development leading to learning and developmental disabilities, reduced IQ, and other serious health impacts – especially in children. Certain products were found to contain one or more of these hazardous chemicals at levels exceeding protective guidelines set by governments, other companies, or third party accreditors.
"We don’t want Dollar Tree’s dangerous deals or toxic toys,” said Jose Bravo, with The Campaign for Healthier Solutions. He continued: "Right now, people are gathering outside more than 60 of your stores across the nation urging you to become a corporate leader, and to ensure your products aren’t making us sick. Your customers deserve your leadership on safer products instead of the empty rhetoric we found in your recent sustainability report."
Although scores of demonstrations and manager meetings were held across the nation, the focus event was held in Baytown, TX, where dozens of Lee College Students, shoppers, and community organizers marched to three Dollar Stores. Along the way, they worked to educate customers, sang ‘nontoxic holiday carols’, and met with store managers. Baytown is also an environmental justice community facing heavy exposure toxic chemicals in their air, where residents work and in the products they purchase. Deyadira Trevino, and organizer with Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.) said, “Dollar Tree: we’ve come here today to say you can be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Our families face high rates of cancer and other health issues because of all the overlapping exposures we face daily, but if you can take steps toward healthier products you’ll gain customers and help create a less toxic world for millions of Americans.”
Although some discount retailers (such as Target and Walmart) have taken specific, more aggressive actions to remove harmful products from their shelves, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar (owned by Dollar Tree) have not adopted comprehensive, publicly available chemical disclosure or management policies. Other retail chains have gone above and beyond mere compliance with the law in an effort to offer truly safer, less toxic products in response to growing demand. Dollar Tree and Family Dollar now lag behind their competitors in offering safer products, and a comparison of the product safety policy sections in Dollar Tree’s 2013 and 2016 Sustainability Reports are almost word-for-word identical in language and content, with no substantial new actions or policies listed since 2013.
“Millions of shoppers buy products from Dollar Tree for their families each year – especially during the holiday season – but very few of them are aware that these products may make their children sick,” said Tracy Gregoire, an advocate with the Learning Disabilities Association of America. She continued; “Our demonstration here, and the dozens of protests at Dollar Tree locations across the country, are to inform customers of the risk these products may pose to their families. We’re urging Dollar Tree to clean up their act by getting toxic products off their shelves.”
People of color and low-income communities are especially vulnerable to harm from these products as discount retailers are disproportionately located in their communities. Many communities have no choice but to shop at stores such as Dollar Tree and Family Dollar, and given the toxic chemicals found in dollar store products these communities are unable to avoid exposure. Event participants noted that because of their importance to these disproportionately impacted communities, dollar stores should be held to a high level of responsibility to ensure they are not selling products which contain harmful chemicals that further endanger people of color and low-income communities.
The Campaign for Healthier Solutions isn't calling for a boycott of these dollar stores, but instead organized today's actions to encourage the chains to follow Walmart, Target, and others in adopting corporate policies to identify and remove harmful chemicals from their stores. The campaign seeks to work with discount retailers to help them protect their customers and the communities in which they operate, and grow their businesses, by implementing corporate policies to identify and phase out harmful chemicals in the products they sell.
Full product testing results and methodology can be found here: http://www.ecocenter.org/healthy-stuff/reports/dollar-store-report
Photos for use with articles are available upon request.
The Campaign for Healthier Solutions is a diverse coalition of over 100 environmental justice, medical, public health, community, and women's organizations working with discount retailers toward responsible hazardous chemical policies and better corporate citizenship.
Jose Bravo; Director, Just Transition Alliance; National Coordinator, Campaign for Healthier Solutions; (619) 838-6694, firstname.lastname@example.org. Jose works with communities contaminated with chemicals, which occurs mostly where low income people of color are living, although everyone is at risk. Habla Espanol.